By all accounts, last night’s Oscar ceremony was a pretty good one for viewers; host Chris Rock gave us plenty of controversy with an opening monologue calling out the Academy for their lack of diversity. From there, the show continued apace, with a few upsets, such as Sam Smith beating out Lady Gaga to win Best Song, and Mark Rylance nabbing Best Supporting Actor. There was a surprising but well-deserving win for Spotlight as Best Film and of course, 2016 was finally the year that Leonardo DiCaprio won the coveted Best Actor trophy.
However, it seems as though all those moments, coupled with Lady Gaga’s tremendous performance, Jacob Tremblay’s excitement over the Star Wars Droids, and an appearance from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, were not enough to draw the viewers in. Indeed, news sites are already reporting that the official 88th Academy Awards ceremony fell more than a little short in the ratings – hitting an 8 year low, in fact.
According to Deadline, in metered market results, the Chris Rock hosted event scored a 23.1/37, down 6% on last year’s 24.6/39. For comparison, 2009’s awards, hosted by Hugh Jackman pulled a 23.3, while in 2008, under host Jon Stewart, results fell to just 21.9. Right now, these results leave the 2016 Oscars sitting somewhere between the two.
Of course, it’s unlikely to be just the host to blame here; in fact, the last time Chris Rock hosted, back in 2005, he gave the Academy their highest ratings of the past decade, with 42.14 million viewers. The exact viewing figures are still not yet fully known, but it’s understood that last night’s show was 23% down on that; quite a large decline. It will be interesting to see if this year’s awards ultimately end up beating last year’s; hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, the show drew 37.3 million viewers, the lowest since 2009.
Many facts can be attributable here and in all fairness it’s unlikely to be just one or two reasons. It’s doubtful that the boycott we saw from some celebrities over the diversity controversy has followed through in large numbers to the public audience, but that could be a factor. It could also be that a decline in the past decade is due to ease of access to results; with the massive advancements in smart technology in the past decade it’s possible to know within seconds, and wherever you are, who has won what and what their speeches were about. It could be that the films this year just didn’t grab audiences like they have in other years; maybe Chris Rock isn’t that popular of a host; or maybe, the public are getting tired of the Academy’s somewhat staid and fusty voting system and have started to embrace other award ceremonies, such as the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice, instead. Take all that for what it’s worth.